EASTER Sunday became a day to remember for all the wrong reasons for the people of Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly.

A malfunction at the Mossmorran Fife Ethylene Plant saw a huge pall of smoke hang over the area and a loud noise come from the plant a couple of miles from the towns.

People were rightly concerned and Cowdenbeath man Jim Ross told the Times: "If I continued to make a noise such as this in my street I would be arrested so what makes them any different.

"This is having an impact not just on the residents but also pets and wildlife. I would like answers from them, this will not just be swept under the carpet".

Cowdenbeath councillor Darren Watt said: "“Once again, it is clear something has gone wrong and, like other local residents, I am extremely concerned by the latest bout of unscheduled flaring from the site.

“Furthermore, I am very annoyed and disappointed by the lack of any meaningful communication from the site operators.

“This does nothing but worry residents further and increase their anxiety.”

And chair of the Mossmorran Action Group, James Glen commented: "SEPA have never used their full legal powers against Exxon/Mobil for operational failures and environmental damage because they judged that the operator was putting in place robust best-available techniques (BAT) for preventing emissions and impacts on the environment.

"The current catastrophic failure of the plant shows the BAT process isn’t fit for purpose. SEPA should waste no more time in using the full legal powers at its disposal to hold Exxon/Mobil to account.

"With over 50 reports of social impacts, and hundreds of reports on social media about acrid black smoke, huge flaring and roaring noise in the last 24 hours, it’s also high time the Scottish Government took its fingers out of its ears and took its responsibilities to the local community seriously. "Instead of pacifying multinational corporate polluters, it should be installing permanent time-based air quality monitors and commissioning an independent study of the health and social impacts of the Mossmorran complex."

Cowdenbeath MSP Annabelle Ewing said: “Previous flaring incidents resulted in a SEPA investigation, the report from which called on Exxon Mobil to carry out Best Available Technique assessments to prevent and, where that is not practicable, reduce emissions of noise, vibration and smoke associated with flaring. These assessments were to be finalised by this month so I would very much like to know what stage has been reached in those.

"Over the course of the weekend, I have been communicating with SEPA in the hope of getting answers to questions such as whether they have been actively testing what is being emitted from Mossmorran during this most recent incident.

“How many more warnings are SEPA prepared to give Exxon before significant action is taken against them? My constituents can be assured that I will be monitoring this situation very closely indeed in the coming days.”

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said on Monday: "Another episode of flaring at Mossmorran, especially over the Easter weekend, is hugely disappointing and a number of local residents have raised complaints.

"The fact is communities have had to put up with flaring far too many times in recent years, which is why I set up the Mossmorran Community Working Group last year to address public concerns. That process is still ongoing.

"The findings of an HSE/SEPA report are due soon, although we have been informed that the faults which led to previous flaring incidents have been resolved. Given this weekend's flaring I’ll be seeking further reassurances that the plant is fit-for purpose and all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent future episodes."

Catherine Cubitt, Exxon/Mobil's Community Affairs Co-ordinator, explained what caused the situation that developed: "The ongoing flaring is a result of an interruption on one of our steam generating boilers.

"The loss of steam resulted in the smoky flaring which our team has now resolved. During Sunday afternoon we called additional members of our team to the site and initial indications pointed to a small section of cable which was replaced. We envisage we will return to normal operations in a few days but the process will need flaring to continue.

"We would like to assure that safety and environmental protection are our highest priorities and would like to apologise to our local

communities for disruption caused as a result of the flaring".